Friday, February 22, 2013

Allegory and Compassion

Karen Armstrong has been going around for a few years now claiming that St. Augustine said, "
If a Biblical pasage seems to teach hate and violence, you must give it an allegorical interpretation and make it speak charity, even if this distorts the meaning of the original author." Now, Armstrong is notorious for misquoting ancient theologians to support her theme but it doesn't matter. I did verify that Augustine supported the idea of allegorical interpretation and that he generally supported a peaceful interpretation of Christianity. So, close enough.

What Armstrong really misses is that St. Augustine would have been the 1% of his day. There was no Occupy movement then, there was no protesting against the 1%, it was just the way it had always been and it was assumed it would always be. Besides, the 99% couldn't read. Augustine would have had no idea that one day people like me and Armstrong would be reading him. He was addressing other Christian leaders and I doubt he intended for them to say that they were distorting the original authors.

What's important is, we can read now. Armstrong claims to be addressing the rest of us, but when she gets slippery with facts, she does us all a disservice. More important is that I have never heard this from any minister or pastor. I suspect that people like Greg Boyd, from last week's blog are aware of what St. Augustine said and thought and wrote. If Boyd is not aware of it, then he is a poor theologian. If he is, but thinks it means he should lie to his parish and provide them with an interpretation that distorts the original authors without telling them, then he is deluded. If he thinks he can come up with an interpretation that is peaceful and compassionate but stays true to the original authors, then he is crazy.

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